The Seventh Step in Overcoming Depression

October 7, 2014 – The Seventh Step In Overcoming Depression

The final step in overcoming depression is to let go of the past. A woman shared that her best friend ran off with her husband ten years earlier. She was deeply hurt by this incredible betrayal. She thought her life was ruined by those adulterers, and there was nothing she could do about it. For ten years she smoldered in bitterness and depression. Feelings of resentment and plots of revenge ruminated in her mind. I told her, I see you with one fist extended up to heaven where God has a firm grip on you. Your other fist is hanging on to your past and you aren’t about to let go. You are not even hanging onto God, but your heavenly Father is hanging on to you, His beloved child. Isn’t it time to let it go? You are only hurting yourself. At the end of the conference she worked through the “Steps To Freedom In Christ,” and she let it go. The next morning she was singing in choir with a countenance of a liberated child of God.

Once I held in my tightly clinched fist . . . ashes. Ashes from a burn inflicted upon my ten year-old body. Ashes I didn’t ask for. The scar was forced on me. And for seventeen years the fire smoldered. I kept my fist closed in secret, hating those ashes, yet unwilling to release them. Not sure if I could. Not convinced it was worth it. Marring the things I touched and leaving black marks everywhere . . . or so it seemed. I tried to undo it all, but the marks were always there to remind me that I couldn’t. I really couldn’t.  But God could! His sweet Holy Spirit spoke to my heart one night in tearful desperation. He whispered, “I want to give you beauty for your ashes, the oil of joy for your mourning and the garment of praise for your spirit of heaviness.” I had never heard of such a trade as this: Beauty? Beauty for ashes? My sadly stained memory – for the healing in His word. My soot-like dreams for His songs in the night? My helpless and hurting emotions for His ever constant peace?

How could I be so stubborn as to refuse an offer such as this? So willingly, yet in slow motion and yes, while sobbing, I opened my bent fingers and let the ashes drop to the ground. In silence, I heard the wind blow them away. Away from me . . . forever. I am now able to place my open hands gently around the fist of another hurting soul and say with confidence, “Let them go. There really is beauty beyond your comprehension. Go ahead – trust Him. His beauty for your ashes. Author Unknown.

Dr. Neil

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Overcoming Losses – Part Three

October 6, 2014 – Overcoming Losses – Part Three

5. Facilitate the grieving process

The natural response to any crisis is to first deny that it is really happening, then get angry that it did happen, then try to alter the situation by bargaining with God or others. When that doesn’t work you feel depressed. You cannot bypass the grieving process, but you can shorten it by allowing yourself to feel the full force of the loss. The fact that certain losses are depressing is reality. It hurts to lose something that has value to you. Your cannot fully process your loss until you feel its full force. That is probably what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

6. Face the reality of the loss

Only after you have faced its full impact are you ready to deal with the reality of the loss. This is the critical juncture. Are we going to resign from life, succumb to the depression and drop out, or are we going to accept what we cannot change and let go of the loss? We can feel sorry for ourselves for the rest of our lives, or we can decide to live with our losses and learn how to go on in a meaningful way. A prolonged depression signifies an over-attachment to people, places and things that we had no right or ability to control.

7. Develop a biblical perspective on the loss

The trials and tribulations of life are intended to produce proven character. We suffer for the sake of righteousness. We can potentially come through any crisis a better person than the one we were before. Losses are inevitable and they are not intended to destroy us, but they will reveal who we are. People have discovered or deepened the awareness of who they are in Christ as a direct result of losses. Each subsequent loss only deepens that reality, perfects our character, and prepares us for an even greater ministry. We are all going to be victimized by losses and abuses. We can drown in our own pity, blame others, claim that life isn’t fair, and stay depressed the rest of our lives. Whether we remain a victim is our choice. “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11).

Dr. Neil

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Overcoming Losses – Part Two

October 3, 2014 – Overcoming Losses – Part Two

4. Convert imagined and threatened losses to real losses

Imagined loses are distortions of reality. They are based on suspicions or lies that we have believed, or presumptions that we have made. The mind doesn’t like vacuums and will make assumptions when we don’t know the facts. Seldom does the mind assume the best. We don’t always act upon our assumptions, but if we do we shall be counted among the fools, because through presumption comes nothing but strife (Proverbs 13:10). People ruminate various possibilities and consequences in their minds until they are depressed. The answer is to verify these assumptions and then follow Peter’s advice, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:7,8).

Threatened losses have the potential for being real losses. They include such things as the possibility of a lay off at work, or a spouse who threatens to leave you. Such threats can precipitate a depression. I find it helpful to think what the worst-case scenario may be and then ask myself the question, “Can I live with it?” The answer is always, “Yes.” Essentially you are processing the threat in your mind as a real loss. The threat no longer has any power over you, and in that way you are not letting any person or event determine who you are, or keep you from being the person God created you to be. So when someone threatens you, respond the way Peter advises (1 Pet. 3:13-17):

Who is eager to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this in gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

These are growth issues, not terminal issues if you understand life from an eternal perspective. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, said, “My depression forced me, at the age of forty-five to stop and, for the first time in my life, examine my life.”

Dr. Neil

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Sixth Step in Overcoming Depression – Part 1

October 2, 2014 – Sixth Step In Overcoming Depression – Part 1

The sixth step in overcoming depression is to process your losses. A loss can be real, threatened or imagined, which is often a negative thought or lie that is believed. Either one can precipitate a depression. How we respond to any loss or crisis will determine how fast we recover. The following steps will help you overcome your losses:

1. Identify each loss

Concrete losses are easier to recognize than abstract losses. Changing jobs and moving to a new location can precipitate a depression even though it could improve your social status and financial base. The move may mean the loss of friends, community, and church. It will take some time to build new friendships and become part of a new church family. Many losses are multifaceted. For instance, the concrete loss of a job and wages may be accompanied by the abstract losses of self-respect, sense of worth, or collegial relationships. People don’t react the same to losses because they have different values, and different levels of maturity. In order to get beyond denial and into the grieving process, you must understand what it is that you are losing or have already lost.

2. Separate concrete from abstract losses

Concrete losses are tangible while abstract losses relate more to personal goals, dreams and ideas. Abstract losses relate deeply to who we are, and why we are here. Many concrete losses, such as the loss of a job, are contaminated with abstract loses. You may find a new job next week, but remain depressed because you feel the pain of rejection and wrongly believe you are a failure. That is another reason why it is so important to understand who we are in Christ and find our acceptance, security, and significance in Him.

3. Separate real, imagined, and threatened losses

You cannot process an imagined or threatened loss in the same way you can a real one. In a real loss you can face the truth, grieve the loss, and make the necessary changes that make it possible to go on living in a meaningful way. A lawyer heard a rumor that his firm was going to be sued for services he performed. He thought, “I’m ruined. The firm is going down and it is all my fault.” Such thinking led to a major depression and anti-depressant medications. I saw him a year later and the company wasn’t sued. It was just imagined.

Dr. Neil

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Fifth Step in Overcoming Depression

October 1, 2014 – Fifth Step In Overcoming Depression

One of the major symptoms of depression is withdrawal from meaningful relationships. Isolating ourselves and being alone with our negative thoughts will only contribute to the downward spiral. You may feel like you want to be alone, but you need to stay connected to God and in contact with the right people. We absolutely need God, and we necessarily need each other. Wrong associations and relationships, however, will only pull you down. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Depression is often precipitated by the loss of a relationship. Anybody who has suffered from a lifestyle depression for any length of time will likely have one or more people that they need to forgive, and some that they need to be reconciled with. Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). If you need to forgive someone else, go to God, but if you have offended or hurt someone else, then go to that person and seek their forgiveness and make restitution if appropriate. You will have little mental peace if you don’t.

A frog was frolicking with his friends when another frog rubbed him the wrong way. Straying off from the pack he hopped into a rut in the road. Two days later he was still stuck in the rut. Some old friends came bouncing by and encouraged him to hop out of the rut, but he remained stuck in the rut. Two days later the friends saw him hopping around the pasture and they asked what brought about the change. The frog said, “A Mack truck came along and I had to get out of there!” Sometimes we need someone or something to shake us out of our lethargy.

Dr. Neil

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